Low maintenance gardens need not look like the bare type, not many plants, lots of rocks, paving, gravel etc. You can have a beautiful garden following a few principles. Choice of plants, type of plants, garden layout, mulching and a well thought out garden design.Planning a low maintenance garden is how you should start, with the planning. Visit your local nurseries, find out from your local council what plants are native to your area. These are usually the ones that will thrive for you for little effort on your part.Choice of plants.Today there is a wonderful variety of plants to choose from, to help with your low maintenance gardening. Drought tolerant and native plants should be your first consideration. These plants will require less attention from you, less attention means less garden maintenance.Start a reference file, write down all the plants that will be suitable for your area, then reference them either on the Internet or through garden plant books. Find a good garden book that will give you the expected growth height and width. This is very important to allow the growing room and deciding how densely you want the planting to be. The more densely a garden is planted the less moisture loss from the ground and so the less garden maintenance.Types of plantsAny plants that need pruning regularly, don’t go there. If it says quick growing, always check the estimated height and width, these can get out of control quickly. Annuals, vegetables and herbs are not what you call low maintenance gardening. Although in containers these can work well and the maintaining need not be great because of a small number. After all a low maintenance garden doesn’t mean no maintenance.Go for leaf structure, variegated, assortment of leaf sizes and colors. There are some wonderful plants in the drought tolerant range and these will be your low maintenance plants.Choose plants of various heights and go for mass plantings of the various types you choose.Garden layoutHow you set out your garden is so very important when planning a low maintenance garden. It is all in the garden design.The walkways, areas for seating, maybe outdoor dining under shady trees in summer and trees that lose their leaves in winter.Raking up leaves doesn’t sound like low maintenance but a leaf vacuum will take care of that for you and it is only once a year.Lawn areas should be kept to a minimum. Lawns do take much upkeep especially in summer. The use of pavers, gravels, even timber can add interest. Curves look better than straight lines for a more relaxed garden. Straight lines can make a garden look more formal.You can add contrast to your garden with the use of different textures. That’s where the use of pavers, gravels, pebbles and timber come into play. The use of large pots, raised garden beds, water features, a wall or trellis for a vine to climb on and if the garden is small, why not a mirror on a fence to reflect the plantings.Take the eye through from one area to another with the use of plantings to create interest and extend the garden. Cleverly designing your low maintenance garden will not have it look like a ‘low maintenance garden’ but a wonderful place to enjoy.Incorporate in your low maintenance garden design, things that are low maintenance, like pavers, gravel, pebbles, rocks etc but make sure you either have them professionally put down for you or learn how to do the jobs like the professionals. Everything is in the preparation, learn to do the tedious first and the end result will definitely be low maintenance.The same applies to your garden beds. There are some very good weed mattings available today and the garden mulches or pebbles are a must. Combine these two for low maintenance gardening, no weeds or very little in the way of weeds. Mass plantings will help stop weeds growing too, give plants some room to grow but keep them tighter than recommended. Be careful with ground covers as some of these can get out of hand too and become almost like a weed.Often times people water their gardens too much, that is, more than the plants require. I live in Australia and we have some long drought times. Our native plants thrive during summer when there is a drought. The ones that flower are just so beautiful during these drought times, many of them have massive amounts of flowers, unlike when there is adequate rainfall.Many of the cultivated plants and shrubs during our current drought are doing the same, very tough water restrictions, no hosing at all and they are flowering so much better than other years when the home owner has been able to hose the gardens. So it is obvious, we water our gardens more than many of our plants require.Color in the garden to add interestWhen you start looking at the plants that are available in the low maintenance area, you will find the colors and variations in the leaves. There are some wonderful plants, plants like crotons, cordylines, with the number of varieties available, they can add that splash of color against the green tonings of other plants.If you want to add more color, then the pot-o-color available today can do the trick. Even though they are annuals, the maintenance is virtually low as all the hard work in establishing the plants has been done for you.So you can see, low maintenance gardening need not be boring gardening. You can have a garden to enjoy without the labor, it is all in the how planning a low maintenance garden is done.